Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Sustainable MBA

Karen Losee at GreenBiz.com writes about "The Sustainable MBA".

She says that the climate change and sustainability issues facing us will require new leaders.

The future calls for leaders that can develop and lead profitable,
competitive businesses that are sustainable, both in a social and environmental
way. Where will these future leaders come from?

Traditionally, the business schools teach that "there is no higher purpose than to make money". This is true for most of the MBAs.

There are signs that this is changing. She cites a recent Net Impact survey among MBA schools in 110 schools.

  • 81% believed businesses should work toward the betterment of society
  • 89% said managers should take into account social and environmental impacts when making business decisions
  • 78% agreed that corporate social responsibility should be integrated into core curricula in MBA programs.”
This is a great change in thinking, but is not true everywhere.

In my MBA in Australia, there are very few people I have met who think in those terms. Business people generally do not talk about anything but money.

The UniSA MBA curriculum is struggling to teach the traditional MBA topics well, and are nowhere near talking about 'corporate social responsibility' or 'sustainability'.

For somebody like me who was interested in these topics it was very hard to pick topics that were near to this topic. I picked one elective from another Uni on "Enviornmental and Resource Economics" which has provided me a grounding in economics and the environment and a second elective designed as a small research topic on using Environmental Accounting principles in office buildings concentrating on Computers.

However, I believe that the tools taught in the traditional MBAs are still relevant. It just needs a different orientation and direction.

One book which I am reading now which combines the business world and sustainability is "Capitalism at the Crossroads" from Stuart Hart.

The first chapter of the book is titled "From Obligation to Opportunity". This is the theme which people need to understand.

For a country like Australia however, it is tough. There is a growing understanding of the environmental issues here but then it is dismissed because "we are too small and insignificant" to make a difference. In terms of poverty and other issues - Australia it too far away from these problems.

Firstly, you do not see poverty in the cities or elsewhere. Australians do not relate to poverty well. And poverty in other countries, this is more connected with aid and charity.

To be able to see that it can be a opportunity may be a leap too big conceptually.

Atleast in Australia, Green MBA may be possible but a Sustainable MBA is a tough ask.